It is Memorial weekend, and all across the states people are remembering their fallen family and friends. Those that have fallen in defense of freedom should be remembered and celebrated; they paid the ultimate sacrifice so that we can ride our roads in relative freedom. Here in France our memorial day is 11th of November, in the UK it is not a day but a time, the 11th hour, of the 11th day in the 11th month, the time the armistice was signed in WW1 and then the Sunday following that is remembrance Sunday.
So what has this to do with motorcycles…well, I know what I am going to talk about is British history, but stick it out because it is sort of relevant.
RE125 Flying Flea
In 1942 the War Office asked Royal Enfield to produce a bike for the British military. They came up with, thanks to the Dutch DKW company, the RE125. It was a decidedly average machine, its engine was a whopping 125cc, it produced a massive 3.5hp and could fly along at a unhealthy 45mph. The War Office chose this bike for one reason, it was light. In fact it only weighed 130lbs or 59kg fully fueled and this was really important because it was to be used by the parachute regiment as a method of communicating with front line forces who might be some way away through hostile territory. The paratroopers loved it, nicknamed it the Flying Flea, and a legend was born.
Our Keytags get seen everywhere.
Me at Pegasus Bridge last summer.
One of the most famous paratroop actions, ever, was that on Pegasus Bridge on D-day. These little bikes, strapped into protective cages, were parachuted in along with the brave paratroopers to take and hold the famous bridge at Bénouville. The attack was a huge success; the bridge was taken and on the 6th of June 1944 became the first land liberated in France by the allies.
To commemorate their plucky little bike Royal Enfield are producing a memorial to it. Not a lump of rock in a field, a bike that is inspired by its traditions. Luckily they are not making a 125, it is in fact based on their Classic 500. They are calling it the Pegasus, after the bridge, which in itself was named after the insignia worn by the parachute regiment. You’d be right if you think that this won’t be a particularly exciting bike to ride. In fact it is just like the regular Classic 500, so it will thump along casually, the brakes will be “interesting” and the suspension, well it has got some. However there is no doubt that it will be fun to ride, and if you are lucky enough to get one, they are only making a 1000, you will be able to ride through quiet countryside, in golden sunshine, and believe that maybe you are in England in the summer of 1942.
Remembrance comes in many forms, a wreath on a monument or a written word, so why not a ride on your bike with a thought for those who would have loved to be doing what you are doing, but are no longer here to?